We’ve mentioned in the past that taking a walk every day is beneficial to your health in many ways. Many people like to measure the amount of exercise they get from this activity through step counts, a fitness tracking metric that most smartphones and wearable devices can use these days. A common goal is 10,000 steps per day, but this can feel like a number that is arbitrary or just sounds impressive. So how many steps should you actually take in a day? The answer is: it depends.
Origin of 10,000 Steps
Back in the 1960’s when a Japanese company was experimenting with pedometer technology, it marketed its pedometer product with the promotion and ideal of taking 10,000 steps per day. The number wasn’t based on any particular science. It just sounded good and got people excited about the device.
Ever since then, though, pedometer companies have marketed their products with the 10,000 step goal. Researchers and personal trainers have also spoken up to give accurate metrics and recommendations to those who are looking to use step-counting technology to measure their activity level. As it turns out, 10,000 steps is actually a decent goal when counting how many steps to take in a day. With average speed and pace taken into consideration, 10,000 steps equates to about five miles of walking time in a day. This number of miles per day of exercise is said to reduce the risk of various health conditions like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and even depression and anxiety. Also, it contributes well with the amount of exercise recommended by the CDC of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
However, this recommendation is not perfect for everyone as a whole. Everyone is different and needs different levels of exercise to be healthy. Some can’t manage much more than 4,000-5,000 steps per day, and children actually need up to 15,000 steps per day (about 60 minutes of moderate-to-intense exercise).
How Many Steps Should YOU Take?
On average, a person’s amount of physical activity can be determined in part by how many steps they take per day (the average being 5,000-7,000):
- Sedentary: 5,000 or fewer
- Semi-Active: 5,000-7,499
- Somewhat Active: 7,500-9,999
- Active: 10,000-12,499
- Very Active: 12,500 or more
As steady as these numbers seem, once again, each individual’s activity level will be different depending on their needs and goals. If you’re just starting out with exercise or are recovering from an injury, you’ll want to start slow and work up. Likewise, some people with chronic conditions and pain cannot reasonably get into active or very active lifestyles. Fortunately, there are plenty of other step goals out there besides the 10,000 step marker, with solid science to back them up.
Steps for Beginners
If you’re new to exercise or getting back into it and want to start slow, add 1,000 steps to your current step count for a week or two, and then do it again. So if you start at 5,000, begin by setting a goal of 6,000 per day.
Steps for Weight Loss
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends gradual weight loss at a rate of a half pound to a pound per week, burning 2,000-3,500 extra calories in that time period. If this is your objective, the 10,000 step or more per day goal is a great one to have. Going as far as 15,000 steps can also help, but depending on your needs, that may be more of a goal to work up to over time. Many pedometer apps these days will also measure your steps differently, meaning you may rack up a significant amount of “active” time if you go for a short jog rather than a walk.
Steps for Improving Fitness Level
If your goal is to improve in your current fitness plan, find the average number of steps you walk or run per day and then begin adding to it. If your activity level is already high, you can begin by adding 500-1,000 steps to your goal, and work up to it over a week or two before changing it again. If your activity level is low, however, you may want to start a little slower, adding 250-500 steps and working on it over a similar amount of time.
Steps for Maintaining Fitness Level
If you’re not looking to get more fit, but want to stay at a stable fitness level, 10,000 steps is also a good goal. However, if that’s the case, you may not want to measure it in the number of steps you take. It might be better to simply start adding daily, half-hour walks to your schedule and not worry about reaching a step goal. For some people, walking 7,000-10,000 steps a day will work just fine.
If tracking steps is not your cup of tea, or if you want to try a different form of aerobic exercise, adding in 20-30 minutes of some other moderate to intense physical activity will work just as well. Walking is a simple and easy aerobic exercise, but swimming, cycling or playing various sports can help you achieve your fitness goals.
It’s always a good idea to consult with your primary care physician before beginning any kind of workout program, especially if you have physical limitations. Whatever your fitness goals may be, we at Community Access Network are here to help. Contact us today!